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Northern Members tackle politicians on local transport issues

NORTHERN ASSOCIATION civil engineers held a debate with their MPs about transport in the North at an ICE-hosted meeting last week.

Eight MPs, including Alan Beith of the Liberal Democrats, who had been briefed on local transport issues in their constituencies, sparked a lively debate.

Bullen and Partners' Desmond Scott had told the MPs that three of Britain's 10 most congested roads in England and Wales included the A1 in Gateshead, A1 in Newcastle and A66 Darlington-Middlesborough.

The congestion battle was still far from won in the North. 'As civil engineers we will plan, design, construct and manage. As MPs you must influence policy, vote for funding and in particular vote for hypothecation please,' said Scott.

Peter Atkinson led the spirited response from MPs by questioning whether integrated transport policy could be applied in this part of the country. He said: 'How can we persuade people in the northern counties to leave their cars at home? For people in this part of the country it has to be the car. If they charged people to drive into Newcastle town centre it would spur people on even more to desert the city and go to out of town shopping centres.'

Alan Beith argued that a change in travelling habits would occur with real public transport improvements, though he lamented the poor state of the A1 north of Newcastle, and asked what could be done.

Scott agreed, but said: 'It's too difficult to persuade the Government to spend money on it. If they are going to spend money on highway schemes it will be in major conurbations.'

David Hunt wanted more use of waterways to replace lorries. He said: 'We need to revitalise shipping and ports and there are also three major rivers in the North East.'

Mike Casebourne, in one of his first official engagements as ICE Chief Executive, presided over the meeting. He said: 'I hope MPs will go away believing the ICE can be influential. We are so close to the Palace of Westminster and non-partisan professional advice is always available at the ICE', he added.

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